As we inch our way towards 2015, I have decided to start one of my New Year resolutions early. And this resolution is to do my own extra little bit for the seemingly impossible task of cleaning up India, my adoptive home. As it is, I seem to spend my life (when I am out walking the dogs, for example) picking up discarded bottles and plastic bags and either throwing them in the next available rubbish bin or bringing them home to dispose of them properly.
The official government campaign, launched recently with much fanfare and many celebrity photo shoots, is called “SWACHH BHARAT” or Clean India. And if ever a country needed cleaning up it is India. It is often difficult as an outsider – which I will always be perceived as, no matter how long I live here – to criticise India. This is one heck of a touchy country, and if criticism comes from “outsiders” it is seen as that much more offensive.
But it behoves me to say, as a lover of this country and as a committed resident, that India is one of the filthiest places I have ever visited. And before anyone starts telling me (with, admittedly, a lot of justification) that there are no rubbish bins, or no-one collects the rubbish – both of which are true – take a look at the photo below, which I took this morning.
This is the Lodhi Gardens, one of the sublimest places in Delhi – a cluster of 15th century tombs, scattered over 90 or so acres of manicured, pampered, well-tended gardens. This is one of the loveliest places in the city. It also has, seriously, more functioning rubbish bins per square foot than anywhere else in Delhi. You literally cannot move in the Lodhi Gardens without coming across a wastepaper bin, many of them painted in bright jolly street-art-like style.
And so what must one therefore conclude, on seeing a sorry sight like this one below? 2 rubbish bins clearly visible, and there was a 3rd one behind me…and yet whichever slob sat and ate and drank on this bench simply could not be bothered to walk – what? – 50 metres to chuck his/her rubbish. There was more garbage under the bench, and lots more behind me. I thought of doing a panoramic shot, but you can get my drift from this much.
This isn’t exactly a name and shame moment, since we do not know who walked off and left their litter behind.
But it indicates the enormity of the task this country faces. If one of the country’s most prestigious monuments, and one well-supplied with rubbish bins is – even so – littered, what is to be done?
How do you start to instil a sense of civic pride? How can you educate people?
I certainly don’t have all the answers – though education & punishment do spring to mind. But watch this space, as I start chronicling as best I can, how to try and clean up Bharat.